Monday, November 3, 2008

Harmonious society By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

Harmonious society
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

Jazz duo Phil Morrison (left) and Keith Williams enjoy playing their East-meets-West creations in Beijing. Guan Xin

The sound from Hollow Reed instantly piques your ears. It has a jazz rhythm section, a sprinkling of Latin percussion, but the main melody is played on an erhu, the traditional Chinese instrument sometimes known as "the Chinese two-string fiddle". One cannot be sure whether this is East or West. The best way to describe it is East-meets-West, or what Phil Morrison and Keith Williams call "international harmony".

Hollow Reed is the latest album by American jazz musicians Morrison and Williams, who see their performance in China as not just another gig, but an attempt to fuse two musical styles. Distinct as it is, jazz can be in harmony with a quintessentially Chinese sound like the erhu or dizi, say the jazz duo. The erhu featured on this CD is played by Jiebing Chen, who has a history of seeking out jazz musicians from the US for collaboration.

Some of the tracks lean one way or the other - either more jazzy or more Chinese. China Skies, composed by Morrison, conjures up an image of a Chinese girl singing a folk song in a southern town crisscrossed with canals and boats. The Duke Ellington standard Prelude to a Kiss, on the other hand, is a better example of fusion, where the jazz accompaniment is not eclipsed by the erhu and the erhu takes on a special jaunty feel, almost like a Chinese girl sashaying across a New Orleans saloon.

It may be hard to categorize but this new jazz sound is the product of almost a decade of cultural blending.

Phil Morrison and Keith Williams first came to China in 1999 and played the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai for six months. Since then, they have played in Shanghai four times.

"There was a Chinese orchestra playing in the hotel lobby, complete with a conductor. That was the first time I'd heard Chinese music," recalls Morrison, who plays the bass and has written many of the songs they play.

Pretty soon, they were mingling with local musicians. A Chinese alto-saxophonist joined them for a while; dizi (Chinese bamboo flute) and erhu players jammed with them; they appeared in local concerts and lectured in the local music conservatory and children's palaces. "The jazz scene is growing in Shanghai," says Williams, who plays the piano and sometimes provides the vocals too.

Before the duo arrived in Beijing, they didn't know what to expect. "August 1 was the first day we played here, right before the Olympics, and it has been a pleasant surprise," says Morrison. "The city is just as cosmopolitan as Shanghai and the streets are so clean."

"Great food! Great nightlife!" Williams chimes in.

Unfortunately, the Hilton Wangfujing Beijing, where they currently perform six nights a week (except Monday), has had only a "soft opening", which means the turnout is not as big as it should be. But once the music starts, they throw themselves into it, heart and soul, regardless of the audience size.

Viva, vocalist for the Hilton gig, adds a nice touch of glamour and verve. She has been performing in Asia since 2003 and can croon any tune from a repertoire of 200 standards - she knows the familiar ones are often the most popular. In the daytime, she teaches singing and English lessons.

One night recently, an audience member requested The Moon Represented My Heart (Yueliang Daibiao Wo de Xin), the Chinese love song, and he himself hummed the vocal a la karaoke. "This song has been a favorite with the Chinese audience," says Williams.

Jazz, which originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African-American communities, is not as popular in China as other America-initiated musical genres, such as hip-hop. "I can feel the Chinese audience is trying to figure out what's going on," says Williams. "There's this mystique about jazz. They want to know more about it, yet they assume it is played in smoky rooms only."

As proponents of this quintessentially African-American music, Williams and Morrison feel a responsibility to expose Chinese music lovers to more varieties of jazz and jazz played with a high level of musicianship.

"Music is a bridge," emphasizes Morrison, and their motto is "striving to be of service to humanity by promoting international harmony through music". It is printed on their business cards and pops up in their conversations as often as the refrains in one of the old chestnut tunes.

As American musicians, they also want to use their music to communicate with the local Chinese. "We came to play only three days after 9/11 and many Shanghainese expressed their sympathy to us," recalls Morrison. "For that, I'm very grateful."

In 2003, after hearing that Beijing had won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, Morrison decided to do something to express what he and his collaborator felt - he penned a song titled Beijing Olympics Hao Yuing. The "good luck" tune was later submitted to Olympic organizers and was picked as one of the songs to be featured during the Games.

"The message of the song is so positive and it recognizes the international spirit of the Games," says Morrison. The use of guzheng and dizi, both traditional Chinese instruments, added a Chinese vibe to the upbeat samba tempo. In later compositions, the jazz duo, who have released five CDs, including China Skies, have made it a point to "capture the Chinese flavor".

They were back performing in Shanghai last night. The "China Skies" they have explored have enriched their repertoire and, in return, they will paint this sky with splashes of great American music mixed with a few brushes of Chinese color.

(China Daily 11/03/2008 page10)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Beijing Good Luck!

Click on the image to enlarge.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The World Unity Jazz Ensemble and the Coastal Symphony of Georgia

Selections From WUJE & The Coastal Symphony of Georgia:
(click to listen, right-click to download)

China Skies / In A Chinese Tea Garden - Live
Skylark - Live
WUJE Introductions By Keith Williams

Selections From WUJE's "Hollow Reed" CD:

Hollow Reed
Persian Prophet

Jazz, Latin, Asian, & Reggae in Concert with Symphony Orchestra
On Monday, April 21 2008, the audience of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia welcomed to the stage the World Unity Jazz Ensemble as part of their “Music of America” program. With the first downbeat the audience knew it was in for a musical experience very different from any other heard or seen in Brunswick, GA. As the beautiful Xiao Hui Ma (pronounced Shaow - Way) from China, graced the stage bedecked in traditional Chinese dress with her erhu (pronounced Ahr-hoo) in hand, the audience welcomed her with befitting applause. This world-renowned artist can be heard on the soundtrack of the popular film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" playing the erhu alongside Yo-Yo Ma.
The World Unity Jazz Ensemble (WUJE) began a five song set of original compositions of bassist/composer Phil Morrison which were skillfully arranged for full symphony orchestra by pianist/arranger Keith Williams. This composer/arranger team assembled the jazz oriented WUJE while performing in Asia. On this evening's performance, Xiao Hui Ma was the featured soloist with WUJE and accompanied by the Coastal Symphony of Georgia. It was truly an extraordinary experience to hear Asian flavored melodies played with the haunting and beautiful sound of the erhu, energized by jazz and Latin rhythms performed by world class musicians of many different races and cultures. The only non-original standard tune was the Hoagy Carmichael classic "Skylark" which was exquisitely sung by Kaori Yamada of Japan, whose physical beauty was matched only by that of her voice.
WUJE (woo jay) and Xiao Hui Ma finished their performance with the song Persian Prophet. This tune blended a hint of a mid-east melody with a reggae beat, performed by American, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Rican, Filipino, Black & White musicians, indicating the potential of a unified human family, while demonstrating that different musical genres (jazz, classical, Latin, Asian, Reggae) can be performed harmoniously. The audience roared to life, applauding the superb performance of the ensemble. Many had never before seen an erhu, yet instantly recognized its earthy, violin-like quality that is sometimes mistaken for a woman's voice. The Songs performed by the World Unity Jazz Ensemble are also featured on their new album entitled “Hollow Reed” which is available on or locally at Daddy Cate's Coffee in downtown Brunswick, or Moondance Vintage Clothing and Palm Coast Coffee in the village on St. Simons Island.
Noteworthy addition: A new song written by Phil Morrison and Keith Williams has been selected as an official song for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Remembering Dizzy


words & music by:
phil morrison

Afro Cuban rhythms groove - new harmonies are on the move
As sonic riffs dance on top - a classic music's born ....BEBOP!
With Bird he made this music grow - to heights where only giants go
Around the world this man got busy - with horn in hand they called him "Dizzy"

"Blowin' hard while cheeks inflate - from deep in his soul he'd create
Playin' notes fast and high - reachin' angels in the sky
Horn rim glasses he put in style - a french beret, a mischievous smile
With small goatee below his lip - no one can say he wasn't hip

But from the start he paid his dues - raised in the South where they lived the blues
He'd laugh and joke but Diz was tough - don't mess wit Diz, he'd take no stuff
Yet whenever you'd need a friend - Diz was there right to the end
Max, Moody, Mike Longo too - he was always there for you

In fact, he loved humanity - the planet earth was his country
Even in his band you'd find - people from all humankind
A master musician we can't deny - but don't forget Diz was a Baha'i
Which advocates WORLD UNITY - and Diz showed us how it should be!

c 1993 Phil Morrison

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Earth Is One Country

words & music by: Phil Morrison

The Earth is One Country if we'd only realize
With so many different nations - it's time to unify

The Earth is One Country and people 'round the world
Want the same things for their children - every boy and every girl

The Earth is One Country - one human family
With peace and justice as our goal - to live in harmony
The Earth is One Country - to care for one another
No matter your religion - your class or your color

Of course we love our sisters and brothers
And family unity is what we need ... but
Love is something we can share with others and
It will grow if we just plant the seed

The Earth is One Country - though borders may divide ...
but The heart knows no boundaries - it's how we feel inside
The Earth is One Country - within this universe ... and
We're proud of our great nation - but we're human beings first

Thirteen separate states became a nation
The USA was born and grew in size
Now we need a world civilization ... and
A universal language would be wise

The Earth Is One Country and there's no need for hate
With all our new technology we can communicate
The Earth Is One Country for peace let us unite
We're flowers of one garden in our Creator's sight

(c)1995 phil morrison

We Can Live Together

music by: Keith Williams & Phil Morrison

words by: Phil Morrison

Go to any city - and this is what you'll see
Every race of people - and that's how it should be
The problem that we're facing - is not just only color
The answer's found with justice - & how we treat each other

Hispanic, Asian, Black & White...families are the same
Raising kids to do what's right...regardless of your name
If we all looked'd be a boring place
We're all from different cultures...but still one human race

WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - but first we've got to try
No race is superior - it's time to unify
WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - respecting one another
We're from the same Creator - so that makes me your brother..

It's time to live in harmony - 'cause this is our home
We can find solutions - but we can't do it alone
If racism and justice - were talked about in school
The people in this country - might use the golden rule

WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - and that's how it should be
With cities growing stronger because of unity
WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - and then that day will come
When we will have prosperity and peace for everyone

(c) 2007 pbm/ckw


Words and Music Phil Morrison c 2001

(1st Vocal Chorus-12 bar bebop blues tune)

Here is a style of music that we offer you
It was created by musicians who we are indebted to
They were true pioneers....
And the songs they played will last throughout the years....
Even now they can be heard
Around the world they know the names of Dizzy and the Bird.....

(Rap/Verbal Verses)

1)Jazz! BeBop! - more precious than gold
Taste it! enjoy! - it's food for the soul
The masters came and sang their song
Armstrong, Duke...the list goes on
Miles, Sarah, Bird & Diz
Respect it people...tradition lives!

2)Race music, jazz, hip-hop, funk
Check out Horace - groove on Monk
Tatum, Blakey, Prez & 'Trane
Creative giants fed the flame
Wynton,Branford, the Brecker brothers
The torch is now passed on to others

3)Ray Brown, Blanton, Pettiford, LaFarro
Durham, Mitchell, Rodney, Navarro
Congress says...a national treasure
Dolphy, Moody....dig King Pleasure
Clifford, Bud, Mingus, Max
It's our culture...know the facts

4)Roots in Africa...feel that spirit
Moves your heart when you hear it
Dexter, Ammons...tenors talkin'
Percy, Pederson...basses walkin'
Movin', groovin' - what's in a name?
Bebop, blues...the roots are the same

5)Oscar, Milt...just down home swingin'
That eternal groove is what they're bringin'
Payton, Redman, McBride & Green
Burnin' young lions are new on the scene
While Chick & Herbie contemporize
Reachin' the young...opening eyes

6)Garner, Shearing, Wilson, Waller
Bechet & Bix...who's to follow
Strayhorn writes - Hodges plays
An era gone...their spirit stays
Whitfield, Scofield, Metheny, Malone
But Wes Montgomery still holds the throne

(2nd Vocal Chorus)

Look at the kinds of music that they teach in school
And you will find that classic European seems to be
the rule
We need Jazz to be taught there
It originated in the USA
So let's preserve this worthy art
Paying tribute to the ones who paid their dues right
from the start

7)Elvin, Tony, Higgins, Haynes
Webb, Jones, Rich & Payne
Bishin', bashin' - snares & toms
Brushin' with feathers...droppin' bombs
Gomez, Sam, Buster, Ron
Your BASSic bottom's goin' strong

8)Cedar, Barry, Bishop, Barron
Evans, McCoy, Jarrett, McPherrin
Garland, Flanagan, Kelly with Miles
Ornette & Desmond...opposite styles
Henderson, Lavano improvise....
Phineas Newborn would mesmerize

9)Griffin, Konitz, - Rivers, Lateef
Shorter, Woods, Byas & Heath
Swingin', singin' saxophone
Giant Steps...In A Mellow Tone
Coleman Hawkins paved the way
For Sonny Rollins to have his say

10)Benny Carter standing tall
Stitt, Getz, Cannonball
Basie's band - pure hard swing
Dig Freddie Green do his thing
Chambers, McClean, Philly Joe
New York City was the place to go

(3rd Vocal Chorus)

Back in the forties when this music had begun
You never knew how great this music would eventually
Very few would accept it
New York City was the place where they would play
And even there some would reject it
This classic music Bebop that should always be respecte

11)Cassandra, Diane, Tierney & Krall
Nat and Ella ...the standard for all
Hartman, Eckstine.... Nancy, Dinah
Dee Dee, Betty...nothing finer
Carmen, Christy, Connors, O`Day
Check out Billie Holiday

12)Sun Ra, Cecil, Ayler, Shepp
A peek OUTSIDE is what you get
Shaw, Little, Rodney, Blue
Donaldson, McPherson, Haig & Drew
Al, Zoot, Hinton, Slam
You say "let's"...they say "jam"

13)East coast groove - way out west
Hampton Hawes passed the test
Wardell, Edwards, Morgan, Land
Criss, Clark and the Vinegar man
Jamal, JJ and Mulligan too
Brubeck, Baker and the MJQ

14)Can`t no-one say that jazz is dead
Throughout the world this music spread
Grappelli, Toots and Marian knew
Airto, Flora and Zawinul too
Brazil, Europe and even Japan
Where Sadao and Toshiko had a band

15)BB and T-Bone ... singing the blues
Brothers and sisters - payin' dues
Here at home they faced rejection
'Cause they wore the wrong complexion
Who defines what music`s "Legit"
Is "jazz" a word that doesn't fit?

16)Remember those who came this way
To move the hearts when they play
We named a few - there's many more
It's serious music we can't ignore
Neglected in its land of birth
But it's respected around the earth!!

(4th Vocal Chorus)

Now that you've heard this composition that we've
Please remember who the masters were-the history
they made
Let's expose them to others
It's our culture and we look at them with pride
They were sisters and our brothers
Deserving recognition that so long has been denied


c 2001 Phil Morrison

...dedicated to the "jazzers" of the world...past &
present...famous & not famous...musicians
& non-musicians....

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pupil of the Eye


(click to listen)

Pupil of the Eye - The source of our vision
Pupil of the Eye - The Creator's gift of sight
A gift for all humanity - Seekers of the light

There are so many things we say that influence the mind
Those hidden little messages that are so hard to find
To show just one example, let's talk about a color
How black is shown as negative in one way or another

Of course we know that's not the case when we refer to white
In fact we use the color white to represent what's right
But those of us who have a tone that's of a darker hue
See Blackness in a different light... a different point of view

Pupil of the Eye - The source of our vision
Pupil of the Eye - The Creator's gift of sight
A gift for all humanity - Seekers of the light

Sounds that enter through the ear - melodies of old
Orchestrating different notes to touch and soothe the soul
A symphone of music creating harmony
Appreciating differences with its diversity

A special walk, that soulful talk flavored with pizzazz
Innovative music - just listen to some jazz
Raggae, Hip Hip, Samba, and don;t forget the Blues
Ways to find expression, years of payin, dues

Pupil of the Eye - The source of our vision
Pupil of the Eye - The Creator's gift of sight
A gift for all humanity - Seekers of the light

The Queen of class and dignity, Oprah - seen and heard
America's classical music from Duke, Diz and Bord
International leadership with strength but always calm
Promoting Peace and Unity... Mr. Kofi Annan

Uplifting words that touch your heart from Maya Angelou
A pioneer in medicine... Dr. Charles Drew
Arthur Ashe and Jim Brown, speaking out, they weren't afraid
Marva Collins and Bill Cosby.. helping youth make the grade

Malcom, Martin, Mandela... standards for the world
To make the world a better place for every boy and girl
Beige, Brown, Black and White, a variety of colors
Yet one human family... all sisters and brothers

Bearing burdens from the past - enslaved and sometimes sold
Enduring untold horrors while survival was the goal
With faith and perseverance - despite the racist drama
Came forth a U.S. President - his name...Barack Obama

The earth's human garden we see before out eyes
Representing Unity, if we'd only realize
But as we care for flowers, so none will be neglected
Hamnity is much the same, we all must be respected

Pupil of the Eye - The source of our vision
Pupil of the Eye - The Creator's gift of sight
A gift for all humanity - Seekers of the light

Seekers of the light... Baha'u'llah... World Unity

alternate lyric
(But darkness equals mystery a search for the unknown
 Seeking Spirituality... we know we're not alone)

c 1990 Phil Morrison

The central theme of the Baha'i Faith is the Oneness of Humankind. The Prophet-Founder Baha'u'llah spoke out at a time when the color black had a negative connotation that contributed to racist attitudes. The Baha'i writings remind us that the pupil of the eye, the source of our vision is indeed black thus helping to put in balance the social implications of the color spectrum.